Repeat drunk driver faces life in prison for death in Santa Ana street race

A repeat DUI driver who killed a man while jogging in Santa Ana in 2020 has been convicted and faces life in prison.

The driver, Louie Robert Villa, 31, of Santa Ana, is accused of killing Gene Harbrecht, 67, a longtime Orange County Register editor and Santa Ana resident.

Villa was found guilty at trial in August, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. He had previously pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in 2012.

On July 30, 2020, Villa participated in a street race near the intersection of 17th Street and Bristol Street in Santa Ana at around 11:40 a.m. Villa stopped another driver, Ricardo Tolento, 26, of Santa Ana and the two began to run.

During the race, Villa passed Tolento before colliding with a pickup truck turning left on Santa Clara Avenue at Bristol Street.

The accident caused the victim’s truck to overturn and catch fire, authorities said.

Nearby Good Samaritans rushed to Harbrecht’s aid and pulled him out of the truck. He was transported to a local hospital, where he later died. Harbrecht was returning from lunch when he was killed, authorities said.

Villa’s car was destroyed during the crash and he was arrested at the scene. Tolento continued to walk away before the police saw him and arrested him.

Villa has been convicted of one felony count of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing serious bodily injury with a prior DUI conviction, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level greater than . 08 with a prior DUI conviction and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license with a prior conviction.

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Toelnto has been charged with felony grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter while participating in a street race, felony hit-and-run causing permanent injury or death, one count of misdemeanor street racing, and one hit-and-run enhancement. and escape. .

If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 11 years in state prison. He is scheduled to go on trial later this year.

“The death of an innocent man was the result of years of poor decisions by the defendant to drink and drive, even after being warned of the deadly consequences,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. Nothing will bring Gene Harbrecht back to his wife and loved ones; but hopefully, his death will be enough to turn the tide of his killer’s life after he completes his prison sentence, and will serve as a warning to anyone who wants to get behind the wheel drunk or high and race on the streets of the world. orange county. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will aggressively prosecute illegal street racing and driving under the influence cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

Orange County authorities have stepped up their efforts to combat illegal racing and street sit-ins, which have continually plagued Orange County streets in recent years.

In April, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office joined with 10 other Orange County law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, to form an anti-street racing coalition called Traffic Enforcement Enforcement. Strategic Traffic against Racing and Reckless Driving.

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